11 Mar 2017

Movie Review: Kong:Skull Island: Not So Good, Not Too Bad

(Caution: Hyphens and brackets prickle this review.)  

Set at the fag-end of the Vietnam war (1973), a government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) hires a British Air Service Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and a military squadron led by Colonel Packard (Samuel Jackson in another stereotyped 'bad ass' role) to explore the mysterious Skull Island in the South Pacific.

The mandatory female lead Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) makes for commercial decoration rather than the photographer she is supposed to be playing. A madcap, chuckle-inducing, endearing cameo by John C. Reilly lightens up the second half. Reilly's Marlow is the only character with any connect here.

A ship sails without anything remotely ominous happening, even the CGI created storm cloud is yawn-inducing, As a bevy of helicopters break through to Avatar-like geography and the talented cast contorts awe-stricken faces to a Jurassic Park-like soundtrack, an airborne tree trunk meets a windshield. Enter Kong, bloody red-eyed, mammoth, all too familiar and one-note.

Big budget blues  
Filled, or more precisely, populated with the movie (Apocalypse Now), anti-war (in uppercase and underlined many times over) and literature (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad) references, Kong: Skull Island gathers audience attention due to its ballooned up budget and cast, rather than anything remotely spectacular.

Lame jokes, cardboard characters 
Mammoth-sized creatures on an unknown island battling man's greed, weaponry and ego is oft-repeated big screen potential.

Kong: Skull Island borrows from all previous reboots and the original King Kong (1933) but falters, scene after scene. Cliches, overcooked dialogues, loud in-your-face action ensures the utter lack of surprises. Woefully, it isn't so all bad either that you get unintentional laughter.

Only for a minute, in a haze-induced hunted-hunter waiting does this wannabe monster movie come alive. A decent final Kong-Giant Lizard confrontation ably mimics bits from Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005). These two action episodes just about hold our attention.

No genuine moments, zero on the thrill meter, a brief, forced human-Kong connect, guns, fire, ho-hum.

Too full of itself and a loud chest-thumping, grizzle of a movie, Kong: Skull Island in 3D is a shallow breeze thanks to its incident-filled screenplay and CGI. An optional, not so boring watch at the theaters this week.

For a better experience, catch Peter Jackson's inconsistent but impressive, high-quality King Kong instead.

5 Mar 2017

Movie Review: Logan: Quality Summer Entertainment

Logan is easily among the best of the X-Men film series so far. The X-Men movies have all either been either good, lukewarm and underwhelming, but Logan cuts above the rest for its grittiness and execution. Some films seem almost gifted with rhythm and cohesion, Logan is that movie for most of its running time.

Mortal heroes 
With an apocalyptic and a looming mutant extinction setting, Logan is a dark, edgy comic book adaptation. This is the most identifiable and connectable of all X-Men movies.

That Wolverine/Logan is dying, his wounds not healing fast enough, that Professor Charles Xavier is down with degenerative nerve disease, is a believable human connect. One promptly relates to this mortality, decline concept, as compared to the usual invincibility scenario.

Impressive action sequences
The opening hour is an arresting, lingering, slow-burner. An engaging mimic of Hollywood westerns’ pathos suits the film’s sober mood. The proceedings have a cool Clint Eastwood (Sergio Leone trilogy) shade in the early scenes.

The action sequences are sparingly and cleverly placed.One particular action set-piece lights up the first half, involving gun-wielding intruders, a fleeing car entangled in barb wire, a train and murderous steel claws. From then on the tempo seldom slackens.

Performances rock!
Hugh Jackman has covered a huge acting curve since his first appearance as Wolverine. He plays Logan with a mature, abuse-ridden distress, snarling, growling, living the role. His dialogue delivery is right down perfect and damn effective. Dafne Keen is a steal as Laura, the young enigmatic mutant kid. Her performance adds sparkle and unpredictability to the film's standout moments. Patrick Stewart as Prof Xavier is an absolute hoot. This is a cast that is clearly enjoying itself.

Ample engaging moments 
The gruesome violence is no poetry for this A (aptly rated) certification movie. The repetitive in-your-face, decapitating violence pulls down the film a few notches. But as two heroes succumb to their graves and a new mutant tribe seeks refuge, the entertainment benchmark hits way above average.

Logan is a sci-fi action drama with oodles of thrilling moments. If you an X-Men film series fan, this is a must watch. A deserving summer blockbuster in the making.

19 Feb 2017

Movie Review: Jolly LLB 2: Uneven But Heartfelt

Akshay Kumar plays Jagdishwar Mishra alias Jolly, a Lucknow-based, unscrupulous assistant to Rizvi Sahab, the city's famous lawyer. Desperate to make his mark, Jolly lies (for want of money) to a pregnant prospective client Hina (Sayani Gupta) that Rizvi will take up her case. A resultant suicide hits Jolly like a whiplash, he now tries to vindicate himself.     

Familiar Strands, More Ambitious 
Just like its predecessor, Jolly LLB 2 sets up a crooked-lawyer-now-standing-up-for-truth premise, gives him an intimidating, seemingly invincible adversary (David vs Goliath in ultra-repeat mode), a rooting lover and an endearing small town judge, makes him fight for victimized clients....

This Subhash Kapoor sequel to his (written and directed) Jolly LLB (2013) takes it notches higher in intent, jumbling and stumbling before finally finding its touch.There are several standalone moments, almost cinematic. The lapses in the plot mitigate impact, but these images stay with us. Jolly LLB 2 is patchy, yet top grade black humour.      

Potentially Iconic
That justice delayed is justice denied is no laughing matter. Indian courts are infamous for prolonged cases, witness deaths and occasional sentences. Jolly LLB 2 addresses a pertinent issue. Only Subhash Kapoor doesn't get it as convincingly across like a (similarly social-message-with-entertainment themed) Rajkumar Hirani. Just when it seems to break apart, Kapoor gets us there with two heart-rending monologue moments. 

Monologue: A (usually long) dramatic speech by a single actor

Black Humour: The juxtaposition of morbid and farcical elements (in writing or drama) to give a disturbing effect

Some Astonishing Performances       
We usually have so much praise for stars and so less for actors. Sayani Gupta is astonishing and empathy-provoking as Hina. Watch how she cracks apart in that one heartbreaking scene with Kumar. Saurabh Shukla reprises his judge role and adds nuances to the character. It's a memorable, controlled performance. 

Kumud Mishra (usually laced with goody, goody roles) as a corrupt cop is a wise choice. Annu Kapoor is very good as the devious lawyer. Huma Qureshi is good in whatever little she gets to do. Akshay Kumar is his competent self, he's fits in the accent and look into the small town ethos. He is as good as Arshad Warsi was in Jolly LLB, if not better. Kumar doesn't put a foot wrong.   

The songs add nothing to the story, the background music is good, so is the steady cinematography. Death to lip-syncing songs, unless it is a musical. Certain sections could have done without background music to build impact. But Bollywood goes with overtly emotional high-tuned music so often now. A bad TV serial hangover?  

The Saurabh Shukla Moments 
i.The judge spellchecking his daughter's wedding card sample in court. 'Goon' to 'Groom', 'Wets' to 'Weds'. Chuckle, chuckle.
ii. A heart patient stubbornly makes his dance moves. 
iii. A father squabbles with his daughter over expensive wedding wear. 

Yes, because the film strives with sincere intent, despite the hiccups, it comes together for 15 minutes before the end reels. Jolly's final argument, followed by the judge's quiet lament hit the right chords. That is a long duration of engagement for a film to reel us in. These moments salvage the film, take it a cut above average. Jolly LLB 2 is worth watching because its heart is at the right place. Awaiting Subhash Kapoor's next.